Sunday, March 02, 2014

Teaching Character #2: The Power of "Yet" and The Metaphor of My Left Hand

Week 2, Micro-Moments, was really helpful in my homeschooling. It made my "teachable moments" so much more deliberate:

B: I think I'll remove the arrows in my Amusement Park map.
Me: Why?
B: Because there are labels for each ride, anyway.
Me: I think you did a good job of putting arrows in your map [constructive responding].
B: It really helps?
Me: Yes, it does. It helps the user of the map know where to go after one ride. I really like the effort you put into the map [growth mindset]. Putting the arrows in shows a good strategy for helping someone go over your project [growth mindset]. I think you're still capable of doing a better map by making it more colorful and attractive [critical feedback].
B: Okay, Mama, I'll keep working on it. [character behavior language: grit].
Me: That's great!

I was really excited to explore the power of "yet" in the Engage section of Week 2 ("I don't know how to do that...yet"). The two exercises I chose were:
1) Doing a mail merge on MS Excel
2) Sign my name with my left hand

The first one was relatively easy to learn. It was the second exercise that really fascinated me.

Here's my first attempt.

Practice #1: Shaky start
I researched right away and I found a Wikihow post that looked really helpful. The link is here. The first thing I did was create dotted lines of the alphabet (lower and upper case) and I tried tracing the lines. It wasn't as easy as I thought. Below my attempt is my own daughter's handwriting after she saw how much hard work I was putting into the exercise. I observed that my own persistence rubbed off on my kids and they started writing exercises on their own.

Here's my second attempt:

Practice #2: Included shapes

This time, aside from writing the alphabet, I added some shapes to trace. I thought I showed some progress. I remembered that line from the video where Dr. Carol Dweck says, "This is hard. This is fun!" I had a thought: I must be growing.

Practice #3: Tracing and Coloring

After tracing basic shapes and practicing letters, I graduated to tracing my right hand (apparently, pushing the pen/ pencil against 3-D contours will help guide the left hand). I also tried coloring in shape with my son's crayon. The result: not bad!

Practice #4: Sentences
I then started to write real sentences (I used "The quick brown fox jumped over the lazy dog" because it uses all the letters of the alphabet. I started to get the hang of it.

Practice # 5: Copying a paragraph
Using my son's science book, I started copying a whole paragraph. This was hard work. You can see from the picture that towards the end of the page, I was already struggling (my handwriting is starting to get shakier!).

Practice #6: Original poetry
My last practice I consider the opus of my left hand exercise.

Here's the text:

Left Hand
This poem was handwritten with
my left hand, a literal exercise in
a different frame of mind.
Each line trembles even when I
know where it is supposed to go.
It has nothing to do with my steadfast
will or body of knowledge -- only muscles
now,  muscles and time.

My left hand became the metaphor for my own growth mindset. Anything can be learned. Anything can be mastered. But the other half of will (and capability) is the work itself. There is no replacement for the work that needs to be done.

This was a really valuable exercise for me. It put me in the shoes of my own kids (and students). Writing (as in literal writing with one's hand) is hard work. It's not something that comes to you overnight. It needs practice. It needs time. And there's no going around it. "Yet" is a powerful word. It provides optimism and reassures you of future capability. That's something I'd like to inculcate in my kids.

Note: I am taking a 4-week class called Teaching Character and Creating Positive Classrooms (offered by Relay Graduate School of Education via as part of my endeavors to enrich my homeschooling experience. 

No comments:

Search This Blog